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25 April 2011 @ 05:07 pm
Meet Benjamin's Sister Jane  
Today, in the New York Times, Jill Lepore chronicles the life of Benjamin Franklin's sister as compared to his. The difference? He got a shot at two year's education. She got none. He was able to run away from their impoverished family and make his way in the world. She had to marry and start having her many children. He could read and write. She could read and struggled to write what little she was able, ashamed of her inability to spell most words correctly. It's painfully obvious that she wished for more and that a brilliant mind--equal to her brother's--was desperate for the opportunity to take flight and attain the same heights.

Excerpt:

His letters are learned, warm, funny, delightful; hers are misspelled, fretful and full of sorrow. “Nothing but troble can you her from me,” she warned. It’s extraordinary that she could write at all.

“I have such a Poor Fackulty at making Leters,” she confessed.

He would have none of it. “Is there not a little Affectation in your Apology for the Incorrectness of your Writing?” he teased. “Perhaps it is rather fishing for commendation. You write better, in my Opinion, than most American Women.” He was, sadly, right.

She had one child after another; her husband, a saddler named Edward Mecom, grew ill, and may have lost his mind, as, most certainly, did two of her sons. She struggled, and failed, to keep them out of debtors’ prison, the almshouse, asylums. She took in boarders; she sewed bonnets. She had not a moment’s rest.

And still, she thirsted for knowledge. “I Read as much as I Dare,” she confided to her brother. She once asked him for a copy of “all the Political pieces” he had ever written. “I could as easily make a collection for you of all the past parings of my nails,” he joked. He sent her what he could; she read it all. But there was no way out.

They left very different paper trails. He wrote the story of his life, stirring and wry — the most important autobiography ever written. She wrote 14 pages of what she called her “Book of Ages.” It isn’t an autobiography; it is, instead, a litany of grief, a history, in brief, of a life lived rags to rags.

It begins: “Josiah Mecom their first Born on Wednesday June the 4: 1729 and Died May the 18-1730.” Each page records another heartbreak. “Died my Dear & Beloved Daughter Polly Mecom,” she wrote one dreadful day, adding, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away oh may I never be so Rebelious as to Refuse Acquesing & saying from my hart Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

Jane Mecom had 12 children; she buried 11. And then, she put down her pen.


An article well worth reading. One can't help but wonder what we missed in those years when women were not educated and the sole option was to have lots of children. The article goes on of course to make points about Planned Parenthood, point out that Jane's house was demolished to make a memorial to Paul Revere, and that finally girls were allowed to attend public schools. Let's not forget where we came from.
 
 
 
Mari Adkins: shrug bunnymariadkins on April 26th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
i didn't even know ben had a sister!
(Deleted comment)
Elle: Baby duckstheletterelle on April 26th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
There are many times I'm thankful to live in the era I do. This is one of them.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on April 26th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
amen